So Done: Rewriting Unhelpful Patterns

So, I treadmilled last night.

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I didn’t really want to. I mean, who wants to run on a treadmill when there’s the whole outside to run in? But I really, really felt like moving my body in some way, and I had Buttercup with me so running outside wasn’t an option. I also didn’t really want to pay the $5 for childcare at the gym, and it was getting late in the evening and I knew we wouldn’t make it to CrossFit in time. So, I put on my run gear, handed Buttercup her tablet to keep her occupied, and did my run on the treadmill in the apartment gym. We got it done, and treated ourselves to sushi afterwords.

Honestly, I was sort of surprised at myself. Who is this woman?!? Normally I would look at the clock and say, “Whelp, I guess a workout isn’t happening tonight!” and go watch Netflix. But I’m sort of tired of being that person. To be clear, there’s certainly nothing wrong with foregoing a workout for downtime, and I do enjoy those nights where I spontaneously clear my calendar and turn my to-do list over so I can veg out and stop thinking about responsible things for awhile. But I found that “Ignore All the Things” has been becoming less about de-stressing and more about an unhealthy coping mechanism for me. And I don’t like it.

So I’ve been noticing all the reasons that inspire me to let my healthy habits slide – a late night, a grumpy mood, an unexpected engagement that throws my schedule off – and how I choose to respond to those stimuli. And so much of it is about just not being prepared. So I’m slowly figuring out what systems no longer serve me, and rewriting them. I mean, this is what I do for a living, guys – process engineering. And yesterday, the first thought system to be rewritten is “It’s too hard to work out when I have the kids home.” Because I totally figured out how to get a decent run in, spend time with my kiddo, and still have a great evening together.

What patterns in your behavior are you so done with? Any thought systems or other systems in your life you want to set out to rewrite?

Go make it a great day, friends!

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Food Police: Be Your Own Health Advocate

The other day a friend posted an article on Facebook about the latest nutrition “news”. My eyes couldn’t roll back in my head hard enough. It wasn’t as much about the content of the article – yet another study has come out saying coconut oil is unhealthy for you, like all saturated fats you know – but of this underlying message that there is a “right” way and a “good” way to eat.

Can we just stop with the food morality?

Food is not “good” or “bad”. It is not “healthy” and “unhealthy.” Depending on your context, however, it can do good things or damaging things to you personally. But what’s good for one person isn’t necessary good for all people.

Some do better on a plant-based diet. Some bodies respond well to a high-fat diet. Some delight in peanut butter while it would literally kill someone else. The thing is what we decided to put in our bodies is no one’s business but our own. And it’s up to us to pay attention, listen to our body, and give it what it needs. No one can tell you what’s best but you.

You are your best health advocate.

That’s all of my ranting for now, go make it a great day!

There Is No Wagon

I had an absolute meltdown the other morning. A wonderful meltdown, because it led me to a wonderful revelation. For quite a few weeks now I’ve been trying to get back into a regular exercise routine. For me, the strategy is to incorporate it into a routine part of my day so that it becomes habit for me, a no-brainer that I don’t need to think about. And the most logical place for me is to plug it into my morning, first thing. I get up, brush my teeth, drink some water, then hit the gym or run. And it’s been a great way to start my day.

However, there is one little thing that keeps derailing my “exercise every day” goal. And that little thing is my little daughter. On the days I have my kids, my 3-year-old usually wakes up sometime in the middle of the night and makes her way to my bed. If I’m not in bed with her when she wakes up, she hunts me down and cries and fusses and generally starts the day off with a meltdown.

Now ideally – and this is what so many other parents are able to successfully do – I try to get up way before my kids wake up so I can get a home workout in before the house starts stirring and demanding attention. This should be easy. However, every time I gently roll out of bed and tip-toe downstairs to sneak outside to the cold, dusty patio, I’ll just be loading weights on my bar when a frantic, sobbing 3-year-old in Paw Patrol jammies launches herself at me accusing, “I didn’t know where you were! You were gone! I was so scared!”

I mean, how do you even respond to that?

And so I hold her and I console her, and usually I take her back to bed with me, because it is still ridiculously early for her. I coax her back to sleep for an hour or so while I just lay there next to her, wide awake and in my gym gear, my feelings ping-ponging between the love and comfort of snuggling my little one to bed, and seething in resentment that can’t I just have this one time to myself to get my stuff done? I mean, she owns me all throughout the day, is it too much to ask if I have from 9pm until 6am to myself??

And so here I was, laying in bed next to my tiny daughter, and it suddenly occurred to me that she’s almost 4 years old. And her brother is almost 7. And she’ll grow out of this eventually, this crawl-in-mommy’s-bed-every-night habit. And I know I’m going to miss it so hard.

In another year or so she’ll be fine and won’t be climbing into my bed every night. And then I get sad that she won’t always be this small, dependent, and cuddly. Do I really want to give up these quiet mornings of snuggles and closeness for exercise? Am I prepared to start paying the cost of having my kids need me less?

I don’t know if I’m really ready for that yet, because I know it’ll come sooner than I’m prepared for. Soon they’ll be requesting slumber parties with their friends, asking me to drop them off at school around their corner so their friends won’t see me. They’ll stop giving me hugs and kisses and start hiding behind closed doors and giving me one-word “grunt” answers to “how’s your day been?” They’ll be dating. Breaking curfew. Planning for college. Then one day moving out and holy crap I’ll be an empty-nester and then I’ll totally have all the time in the world to exercise anytime for as long as I want!

So to the moms of small children out there who struggle to find time to take care of yourselves and feel guilty about it: if you can’t find the time to consistently exercise and it is stressing you out, that is totally and completely okay to just not work out. You are not indifferent to your health, lazy, or uncommitted. And if you can’t give yourself permission to not feel guilty about not having “structure” or “a routine”, then let me give it to you. You have the permission to drop the idea that you need to work out every day if trying to fit it into a day that already starts too early, ends too late, and has approximately zero amount of self-care time built in is causing you stress and shame. Because this is just a phase of life and This Too Shall Pass. Soon you will sleep through the night again, have time in the evening to cook a real meal and even maybe sit down to a TV show uninterrupted or be able to go to the bathroom alone. I know, right?? Such dreams. But it’ll happen someday.

Now, I’m not saying never work out. When you have the opportunity, seize it! Had the baby off to the other parent, and jet off to the gym. Use a lunch break to squeeze in a run. And when you can get it done, relish it and feel good that your doing something good for yourself. But don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not doing enough, that you need to “get with the program” or “get back on the wagon,” because I’ll tell you a secret …

There is no wagon.

So just do what you can, let go of what you can’t, and just live your life. Because if you can find the happy and joy, you get to model how to be happy and joyous to your impressionable little ones who are always watching, and isn’t that what parenting is really all about?

And the little kid snuggles are so, so worth it.

Go make it a great day, friends!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

I LOVE CHRISTMAS!

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I totally live in the camp where Christmas carols are for all year singing enjoyment, and when the Holiday Creep launches Santa-themed end caps at Target in September I do a bit of an internal jolly elf happy dance. The holidays are my jam.

Now that I am all moved into my new place, I was SO EXCITED to start decorating just in time for the holidays! Since the kids and I were traveling over Thanksgiving week, we decorated the week before Thanksgiving. Horrifyingly delightful, amiright? At this point you either want to shoot me or grab my hands jumping around in circles squeee-ing with me. You know what side of that line you fall.

But I think we did a great job. I found the absolute cheapest artificial tree at Target on my divorced-single-income-mom-on-a-shoestring-budget budget, and after the kids took turns breaking hanging up their ornaments, I think it came together quite nicely!

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Hulk and I agreed that I would have the kids Christmas Eve and bring them to his house on Christmas Day, so I wrote to Santa and let him know that we would be at Mommy’s House this year.

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I also found this festive bouquet at Trader Joe’s last night. Always buy yourself flowers. That’s a Melissa Hartwig mandate for ya.

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So I think we’re all set for Santa! Oh, and I am re-re-starting my Couch to 5k program. The other day I treadmilled. Really. I know, who am I?

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Always cover up the console, otherwise you’ll know how little and how slowly you really ran.

But I really want to get back into running again. It’s the easiest way for me to experience sweat therapy, doesn’t cost me anything, and with the apartment gym just across from my unit I can even treadmill when the weather’s lousy.

That’s all for now, go make it a great day!

Moments of Happy

Happy Tuesday, friends! I hope you have a productive week in store for you!

The other morning I was at my usual Starbucks stop, and after the barista handed me my coffee-black-like-my-soul-with-a-few-ice-cubes-for-chugging-temperature order, I took my first sip and had THAT moment. I noticed that this is one of my most favorite parts of my day, that first sip of coffee. It’s sink back and sigh good. It’s the moment when the world stops good.

So of course I Instagrammed it.

And I noticed how there are some dependable moments in life where time just seems to stop as we take in the happy that is in front of us. I started mentally logging some of these instances so I could start anticipating them:

  • The first sip of my coffee in the morning
  • Looking up in the late fall sky in the evening to see a gorgeous sunset that’s all golden with those pink and purple clouds
  • Maxing out on a lift I haven’t worked on in weeks
  • That part in my morning routine when my 3-year-old daughter just rolls out of bed and needs me to hold her for a few minutes until she’s fully awake and ready to put her day under siege
  • When my favorite song comes on my playlist and no one’s around so I can jam and sing loudly and poorly to it
  • When I’m on a run and it’s been a while and my body is fully warmed up and ready to go, and I feel like I’m flying
  • Watching my kids giggle and wrestle with each other like little bear cubs on my bed, while I toss pillows and blankets on them
  • Curling up in bed with my tea and my book at the end of the day

I’m starting to call these my “Moments of Happy.” They don’t all happen every day, but I try to plan on having at least a couple Moments of Happy in my everyday routine. And if I don’t have one, I start figuring out how to cultivate it. Sometimes it’s the anticipation of a good Moment of Happy that encourages me to pull out of bed in the morning. Or sometimes that Moment of Happy is just lounging in bed a few more minutes, with the knowledge that on this particular morning I don’t have any urgent tasks that I need to jump on yet!

What kind of Moments of Happy do you notice in your day?

Go make it a great day!

The New Fitness

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I’ve been rather introspective lately, which I figure is a natural side effect of doing a lot of self-work and spirituality seeking. My “Emily’s Deep Thoughts” posts seem to slowly be outnumbering the ones that contain what I ate for lunch and my latest run stats. At first this bothered me a lot, and I just didn’t want to post anything. I wanted to keep my “la la la, off to the gym, hey look, frittata for dinner!” content rolling but my personal life wasn’t in alignment with what I wanted my blog life to be. Sick of fighting with myself, I stuck to Instagram mini-blogging where it seemed easier to throw some stuff out there but not be too committed to a thought.

But I still felt bothered. I didn’t want to abandon my blog, but I didn’t know how to work it into what I felt like writing about. My whole paradigm of health and healthy living had been shifting, and I didn’t know how to address it. Part of it was because I keep looking to the outside for guidance – what are the other health/fitness bloggers doing? Oh man, I don’t have abs yet, so I can’t do it that way. Does … does she ever wear pants? Or even own pants? Wow, that’s a lot of green juice. And so. Many. Gym. Selfies. Wait, that was my account. But gym selfies of actually working out, not just in the mirror. Workout selfies? How do you even do that?!?

What I was trying to do just wasn’t working for me. I wanted to jump on the train of filming myself working out, coming up with inspiring recipes, and taking lots of mirror selfies of my non-existent muscle definition, which isn’t what I do. It really isn’t ever what I did.

What do I do? I listen to my body and try to give it what it needs. I work to heal my emotional wounds of the past and break myself free of the numbing, survival-based behaviors that no longer serve me. I remind myself constantly that I am love, and I give love, and try to be kind and respectful to all I encounter. And I eat well, go to the gym, take long beach rambles, and do what I can when I can. I am never perfect, and I no longer want to punish myself for doing anything but the best I can at the time. And I feel really, really happy.

To me, this is healthy. This is fitness. Take what you like, leave the rest, and always work in your own values and authenticity. And it’s not sexy. It’s not marketable, and it doesn’t engage people to click. But aren’t our newsfeeds filled up enough with pretty, empty images designed to make us feel not enough so we’ll buy whatever they’re selling?

I’m ready to rock a new road. A road that leads to a healthy, fulfilled life that’s full to the brim with love and experience. A road that says I am already enough, and all of this is just to celebrate all the things I can still do, for the fun and curiosity of it. I remember working out with the Girls Gone WOD group in Costa Rica, and realizing during the EmPack workout how much I love movement. We were sprinting up a hill with weighted duffel bags, something that would normally have me groaning and faking an injury to get out of it. But in that moment the experience was something else entirely. It wasn’t there to train therefore required to achieve and get better, it wasn’t because I ate a donut yesterday and I needed to do penance for my dietary sins, it was moving because it feels good and is good for me. Oh, and it was so, so much fun! One of the best times I’ve had in my life. I want more of that in my life.

Let’s make this the new fitness normal. No more restrictive diets and pills and powders that promise a sculpted body and almost certainly deliver an empty heart. Let’s do more of what makes us feel good, instead of look good. We are whole creatures that deserve wellness at all levels, not just our earth suits. Let’s be mindful of our fitness journey on the inside as well as the out.

Go make it a great day

Don’t Consume – Create!

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The other morning I sat on my bed and scrolled through Instagram for an hour. Yes, an hour. An hour I didn’t really have to spare, of course. I know it was a whole hour because at one point I looked at the clock and it was 5:30 am and when I looked up again it was 6:30 am. And aren’t I the one always complaining how I never have enough time? And when I checked in with myself and how I felt, I found that while I intended to be inspired and energized by taking a peek at what my friends and social media girl crushes are up to, I found myself feeling behind the game and flat. This was not the way I had intended on tackling my day.

With everything happening with my life lately, I’ve tried to be hyper-conscious of my attempts to numb or hide from things, so I don’t start down that slow slide to depression and isolation I know I have a tendency to head towards. I cut back on alcohol, I try to stay checked in with family and friends, and I try to read instead of watch TV. But I am catching myself more and more picking up my phone and gravitating to my social media apps when I feel uncomfortable, anxious, or bored. And I end up feeling sort of icky with all of the media consumption this results in. Politics, scandals, and social unrest leave me feeling helpless and confused, and I’m forever in a state of processing what I just absorbed. Don’t I have enough going on mentally and emotionally to be voluntarily jumping in the game of “What Facebook Memes Will Piss Me Off Today?” roulette? There’s being informed, and then there’s bingeing on Buzzfeed articles from amusing Pinterest posts. Time to find where that line is.

So for this month, I decided to set my absorption of social media aside, and instead focus more on creating content instead of consuming it. I internally lament all the time that I never have time to blog and write. Well, with hours spent mindlessly scrolling Facebook every day, imagine how much I could get out there if I used that time to put out my own content instead? This is the season of giving, right? So for me, I’m going to use it to give my voice instead of lurking in the background of online connection. Don’t consume – create!

Go make it a great day!

Awesomely Average

For some reason, I’ve been fearful of writing lately. After some refection, I think I understand why. The fear comes from perfectionism. Not that I’ll fail, but that I won’t be perfect. Exceptional. That I’ll end up in the dreaded average. Who wants to be average? I either want to be amazingly inspiring, or so horrendously ill equipped that my cautionary story of How I Attempted Exceptional and Failed Spectacularly is a source of future amusement. Does it really need to be one or the other? I used to say, “epic good, or epic fail!” in jest, but now it’s become more of a life motto than an amusing meme. What is up with my avoidance of Average? So far all it’s doing is preventing me from living life and doing what I enjoy.

There’s nothing wrong with average. It’s comfortably in the middle. It’s unassuming. It’s where the power can lie in wait, recharging for the next surge. Average gets stuff done. It’s still progress. Average sets the standard. As David Letterman said, C’s still get degrees.

Our culture wants to reward the overachievers, the “greatests,” because they’re an inspiring story. And it’s super fun to be the winner on top of their game. Everybody loves a winner, and the prizes are fabled to  be great, even if the prize is “Congratulations! More work!” But the average is also rewarded – with lack of resistance. You just move forward to the next step. If I’m an average parent, my kids still grow up right. If I’m an average employee, I am likely to keep my job. If I’m an average powerlifter, I can still move and lift heavy-ish things. Average can still keep me moving forward without all of the effort and stress Exceptional requires.

Of course I don’t want to get stuck in a rut. But average isn’t a rut if it’s just a place I’m hanging out in for a while as I catch my breath and my bearings. Nor is it complacent; eventually I’ll get bored of Average and want a challenge. And then Exceptional will take the stage, and we do the dance again.

Average. Moving things progressively forward since the first caveman looked at his cave painting and said, “Meh, good enough.”

On Owning Life Decisions

If you’ve been following me on Instagram (and you totally should, because sometimes I post unicorns) you know that last week I started a Whole30. I had been W30’ing and posting on it for six days, but now I have a confession to make … I had beer the other night. Not one, but two beers. It was a conscious choice I deliberated prior to and at the event, and I decided to go for it. And in my opinion it was deliciously and soul-fully worth it, despite the heartburn, crummy sleep, and rough morning after. I enjoyed the experience with a new friend, and we had a great time. I felt the situation called for it, so I allowed myself to make whatever choice I felt was appropriate.

Normally if I “quit” a Whole30, that’s it. I dive-bomb back into whatever my diet was before I started. But this time, I picked right back up where I left off the next morning, getting up early to make an egg scramble and pack a tuna salad for lunch. Because to me the process of getting my lifestyle and habits overhauled to embrace healthier food choices for myself matter more than giving into the “What the Hell” effect described in the “Food Freedom Forever” book, as in “what the hell, I’m eating this so I might as well eat all the things and go down in flames of glory,” which is so tempting. But I’m not tempted.

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I know, right?

Now, I’m not too proud of going off-plan. Let me just make that clear. But what I am proud of is that it was a conscious choice, I don’t feel bad about myself, and my only regret is that I chose to make this Whole30 so public on my Instagram, only to “lol just kidding” six days in. Kind of awkward. But I am picking up where I left off, and I’m back on plan. This is a huge leap of difference between old Emily and new Emily. Old Emily would throw in the towel, fully succumb to the “What the Hell” effect (as in, what the hell, I might as well also have pizza and top it off with some Safeway sheet cake … and go for my usual Starbucks breakfast sandwich and coffee with creamer tomorrow morning for breakfast because whoops I’m done oh well) and it would be several weeks before I finally emerged from my nutritional off-roading glory to crawl back to the program, confess to my dietary sins, and try again. Oh, and feel terrible and beat myself up for “why can’t you just be healthy!?!? What is wrong with you?”

So, new Emily has come to realize that this is a journey, and what’s a road trip without a few pit stops along the way? Sometimes the detour to see Carhenge is appropriate (I mean, it’s a Stonehenge replica made entirely out of cars can you not even) even if it sets you back a bit both time and budget-wise. Or maybe not. But you need to own the decision. If I had planned ahead of time to have seltzer with lime, got to the bar, and threw it all out for a beer, that would be different. That was not a conscious, deliberate decision. That is old Emily behavior. New Emily considered the options ahead of time, and decided to evaluate in the moment. And then in the moment, evaluated the options again and concluded that this would be okay. It is not sticking to the Whole30, I am not following the program in that moment, but for me personally it is okay.  And you know what? I’m still a good person at the end of the day. Well, okay, some folks might beg to differ, but my dietary choices have no affect on my morality and self-worth. And that is something that it’s taken me the better part of two decades to figure out.

I have a couple other social opportunities this week where I’ll have to make a decision whether to stick to the Whole30 plan or not, because I’ll be at a party or at a restaurant and temptation to stray will be there. But for these situations, I’ve predetermined that no, going off-plan will not serve me, and I’m making arrangements to stick to the program, such as suggesting to my friends to cook a meal at their apartment instead of going out (I offered to grill steak for them, so I’ll still be popular don’t worry), and looking at the restaurant menu ahead of time to figure out how much I will be able to make work and bringing some snacks to supplement. This is not hard, it just takes a little planning an experience.

The takeaway is sometimes plans and intentions change, but instead of regretting and berating yourself for “not being more disciplined” or “I just have no willpower,” own your choices, take the results with grace and compassion, and go on to enjoy the rest of your life.

Am I perfect? Nope. Will every off-road decision be made with this amount of contemplation and contentment of the results? Most definitely not. I’m sure at some point there will be some regretful break-room-donuts or home-alone-beer-and-nachos decisions that were more automatic than mindful. But it’s about progress, and the best kind of self-care is when you can celebrate the wins.

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And homemade chicken curry, because OMG so good.

I hope you are having a fabulous morning. Go make it a great day!

 

Rough Week

It’s been a bit of a rough week over here. Life stuff is rolling along smoothly as usual, but the news lately has been wretched. Along with the National stories of horror (eff you too, all news from Florida) I’ve found out quite a few people have passed away recently. Some I knew personally, some were family and friends of friends, and some were community leaders who inspired me. Then the Warriors lost game 6 of the playoffs. The bad news just kept rolling in all week.

So when I woke up before my alarm this morning, I knew a bit of self care was in order before I headed to work. I knocked off a session of Headspace meditation, then once I saw what a beautiful, sunny day it was, I took Olive to our favorite trail.

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I started writing a bit more about my thoughts on this week’s events, but it got super deep and woo-ish super fast, so we’ll keep it light by saying it’s the weekend, yay! Let’s go out and do cool stuff. Play a game, get dirty, laugh hard. Ponder life’s mysteries, give really good hugs, and frolic. Live life the way it was meant to be lived. That’s the best legacy and memory we can make for anyone. And go make it a great day.